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More and more B2B companies are investing in commerce portals, where they can offer a personalised shopping experience by using digital aids and customer information. However, some companies receive orders by phone and email and close new deals with the help of salespeople in the field.

Are you one of them? In that case, it may be worth considering a B2B commerce portal to meet new customer requirements and take advantage of several sales opportunities.

The new buying process places new demands

In the traditional B2B buying process, you always had contact with a salesperson. As a customer, when you had a business need, you looked for a seller to be informed about the different options available on the market before making your purchase decision.

“As self-service transactions rise in popularity, providers must understand the behaviours of their target buyers to create seamless experiences that are easy to find, easy to use, and align to their preferences” - Forrester

B2B salesNow, the buyer has first obtained information digitally. When the buyer feels ready, they contact a seller. This change in buying behaviour places greater demands on the product information that’s available digitally.

3 pitfalls of not having a B2B commerce portal

Today, more and more B2B buyers expect to shop from anywhere and anytime. So, it’s easy to miss an opportunity to sell if you don’t have your current product information available around the clock. The three most common pitfalls are:

  • You’re not available and miss a customer’s order
  • The customer becomes apprehensive about ordering when the product availability, price and delivery time aren’t made available or updated
  • Geographical restrictions and specific opening hours prevent the customer from shopping from where and when they want, and this uncertainty reduces sales

B2B commerce

Millennials make new demands

Without a B2B commerce portal, you’ll miss large parts of the buying process. This is because buyer’s behaviour has changed. Today, 65% of the workforce are millennials or Gen Z – born between 1980 and 2012 – and have great purchasing power in B2B. Research shows that millennials are key B2B decision makers, and this will affect your business if you’re not prepared.

Here are some key trends we’ve identified with this buyer group:

  • 73% of millennials want a personalised B2C style experience, even when buying for B2B
  • 58% of millennials initially research the information themselves and contact sellers much later during the purchase than previous generations
  • Millennials rely on independent experts, social media networks and industry colleagues to do their research. So if you want to win their trust, invest in credibility, openness and highlight your positive customer reviews
  • Millennials have high expectations of a first-class experience and are more likely to show their dissatisfaction, with 90% of millennials and Gen Z being dissatisfied with their vendor compared to 71% of buyers from older generations

B2C experience in B2B commerce

Some insights that give perspective on the shifts in buyer behaviour in the B2B market:

  • Just one out of four buyers consult sales representatives in their research, and instead depend on independent resources
  • The main reason that buyers avoid purchasing from a vendor is cold calling – 64% are less likely to buy a product if they have received a cold call
  • 60% of buyers want the option to be able to quickly talk to a customer service representative through a vendor’s website
  • The majority of buyers search for information on mobile devices – for 8 years now this has been the case. Yet the use of mobile search is still increasing, so B2B vendors should ensure they can offer a user-friendly mobile experience

Generational change can be challenging, but it also provides ways to find new business opportunities and increase business growth. If you want to maximise the business effects and secure your business’ future, you must listen to the needs of the current generation. This applies to both your own business and that of your customers.

Customer experience

B2B commerce portals are needed but require a change

Back to the question: Is it worth investing in a B2B commerce portal to meet future buyers’ demands? The answer is – of course – yes!

But first and foremost, you must decide when it’s the right time for your business to begin your change journey. The next step will then be to prepare your organisation well in advance. Skipping this important stage will mean your team won’t understand what the change means and how it will affect your organisation.

You can read more about how to prepare your team for change by clicking here.

B2B buyers

Where you start and how you proceed depends on several factors, such as your business model, customer needs and existing digital infrastructure. At Columbus we’re happy to help you find the right way to secure your business’ future with a B2B commerce portal.

We supported Toolstream to upgrade their B2B commerce platform, enabling them to deliver a B2C style experience in line with the needs of millennial and Gen Z customers.

Learn more by clicking here to read the full case study.


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